Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ambassadors / Ash Wednesday (2013-02-13)

This is my homily for ASH WEDNESDAY   2013. I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association and at New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Evening (5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.) at the FDU University Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

[Joel 2:12-18 | Psalm 51 | 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2|  Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18]

TITLE:  Ambassadors / Ash Wednesday (2013-02-13)

[__01]       The President of the United States makes appeals – and builds relationships – with other countries through ambassadors.

Ambassadors are diplomatic agents and authorized messengers. In many cases, they carry out their mission living abroad.

Certainly, while traveling/living  internationally, the ambassador walks a tight rope, a balance beam between what the Secretary of State wants back in D.C. and what the elected officials want in Cairo or Tokyo.

[__02]       You or I might resemble the ambassador, say –

·         Representing the mission of  the university to the students, the local citizens of our campus.

·         Teaching students in a classroom – professors / teachers are ambassadors … usually with a deadline.

·         Studying – earning a degree – a student resembles an ambassador …in that a student must often put aside his or own agenda, personal interests in order to learn.

·         An athlete on the field, on the court or any student leader would also be an ambassador of the university.
[__03]        How does one become an ambassador … of any kind –
 In Jersey City, or Kuwait City, or London. In Teaneck, Hackensack, Tokyo, or Helsinki.

And, how does one become an ambassador for Christ, the Christian faith?

In 2nd Corinthians, today, Paul calls us “ambassadors for Christ”.

[__04]       Challenging for the ambassador is not only the mission but also the style, the  presentation. Not  only what to say and do  - but also HOW to say, to do, to negotiate.

[__05]       Being an ambassador for Christ calls us to be concerned with both what we do and how we carry it out.

LENT could be a 40-day retreat for us, the ambassadors – before we are sent off to a new country …

Lent could also be a 40-day meditation on how we have lived in our own difficult circumstances. To love as Christ taught, to love God and love our neighbor with all of our heart, mind and strength requires at times – DIPLOMACY … SELF-SACRIFICE.

Do I need a passport? A visa?

[__06]   Jesus, our Savior, appeals to others through us – God is working through us to reach – a family member, a roommate, a teammate, a friend, a student.  He crosses borders.

The ambassador is God’s representative making the appeal …

  In the Gospel, the Lord reminds us of some Gospel practices for ambassadors, for us, his disciples.

[__07]       The Ash Wednesday Gospel mentions the 3 classic practices of LENT and of our spiritual life -  ALMSGIVING, PRAYER, and FASTING.

[__08]    (1) ALMSGIVING – which is charity, love.

Jesus says, “do not let your right hand know what your left is doing.”   (Matthew 6:__)
This is love without conditions.

Isn’t it a blessing to be loved by someone who loves us for who we are , who puts the relationship first… puts the relationship ahead of money, profit, comfort, convenience?

And, the Gospel ambassador does the same. Just as a parent would put her child first. The ambassador puts the relationship first.

In this regard, the “boundaries” or the “borders” between the country (or the 2 people involved) only make sense once they have made their love – their charity – to each other clear and known.

LENT is a time for charity, for love, without allowing the right hand (or right brain) to know what the LEFT is doing.

[__09]    (2) PRAYER / MEDITATION  - Making time for prayer is the ambassador’s / disciple’s call. This is not only about coming to
church but also about our ongoing daily relationships.

Do I / do you  have relationships with others which may be disrupted, interrupted, broken ?

Jesus says, pray for your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.

LENT is a good time to pray about difficult relationships, with their diplomatic differences. And, just as we book time for study, exercise so that we can make a good appearance  in class or on campus,  ….

We also pray (and make time in our calendar – even writing it down as an appointment)  so that we can make peace in private …and make peace in public as Christ’s ambassadors.

Part of our prayer is also repentance, confession of our sins, putting down our burdens. Our mission is one of not only of peace but also of FREEDOM.

[__10]    (3) FASTING  - It is a basic practice of Lent that we fast, take 1 main meal on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and that we abstain from meat on these days.

Our fast during Lent is not a demonstration or competition..  As the Lord says, do NOT appear to be fasting.

As Jesus calls us to be ambassadors, he is also concerned with not only what we do but how …and how we appear.

The fast, the sacrifice is neither a hunger strike nor a hunger game.

Fasting is simply a way for us to put spiritual needs, spiritual hunger ahead of physical hunger, to know ourselves better, to comprehend God’s will more clearly.

In this regard, the fast – the emptiness – opens us up to the nourishment which God offers.

Fasting helps us to discern not how hungry we are … but what we might actually need for nourishment – in a spiritual sense.

Fasting in this regard is not a withdrawal  or escape from reality

Rather fasting – along with charity and prayer – are ways for us to be more present, to understand our current reality.

And, as ambassadors – the Lenten journey – enables us to live in peace and security and freedom in God’s kingdom, our new country of residence.  [__fin___]

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